A compliment is verbal sunshine
Giving and receiving compliments are very important communication skills that boost our self-confidence and the confidence of the people around us. We grow up in a society that struggles with giving and receiving compliments. People are stingy at the giving end and uncomfortable at the receiving end.
What many people don’t realize is that complimenting others is a projection of a trait, skill or beauty that we see in ourselves. It is a gift of kindness that when we give, we also receive.
Recently, I ran leadership training with a group of high school students and we talked about compliments. It took us 10 hours to change the lives of all those students and increase their self-confidence ratings by 20% to 50%. Yes, in just 10 hours of a very busy training day, we change their attitude towards themselves and other people.
One of the leaders came to me in the evening, after the session with the parents, to say “Thank you”. She said that the part about compliments was very meaningful for her. She felt that it was a shame they didn’t teach communication skills in primary school and that it was important to give compliments to others, and even more important to accept compliments. On the ride home, I thought about it and realized I had never written about compliments in my blog, so I thanked this girl for bringing it to my attention.
People give a compliment when they feel good, because it is a projection of a feeling they have inside. In our society, unfortunately, we hear fewer and fewer compliments. Since our early years, we learn that we need to earn our compliments. We learn that they come with the price of compromising or trying to please someone else. When the grownups around us highlight the things we do wrong, we switch to “pleasing mode” and fall into the approval trap.
Over time, we mirror this behavior by not giving others compliments and expect others to earn compliments from us too. If you want to understand the severity of this problem, think of you playing with your friends in the playground or street. How many times have you said to a friend, “You are a great player”, or, “You climb so high. Well done”. Ask yourself also how many times someone else said anything like that to you?
Kids don’t give complements, because they don’t hear many compliments. In my parenting workshops, when we go over the communication parents have with their children, some parents start crying when they realize that 90% of their communication is telling their kids off, rather than giving them compliments for things they do well or just for being their children.
Some of them think that saying “I love you” is the only compliment they need to use, and all the good things they have to say about the other person are included in it. Well, this is what I mean when I say that we are stingy. Saying “I love you” is great, but it is not really a compliment.
In the public speaking session of the leadership training, I asked the students to give feedback. It was amazing how many of them said, “I liked the topic”, or, “I liked the way you kept eye contact with everyone in the room”. Compliments are about giving, not about getting. It is important to remember that the person we give the compliment to is the center and not us.
When parents say, “It is wonderful that you are eating with your spoon”, who is in the center of attention?
When parents say, “I am happy you are eating with your spoon”, who is in the center of attention?
The first statement is a compliment and promotes self-esteem. The second promotes approval. One of them is giving, and the other is taking.
This does not mean we never use the word “I” and don’t express appreciation and happiness about others, but I would suggest to avoid it, especially in situations when there is a risk of turning on the approval switch, particularly in parent-child, teacher-student and boss-worker relationships.
The Compliment Challenge
The best way to receive compliments is to compliment others. The more compliments we give, the more we receive. We need to be in a state of kindness and surround ourselves with people who do not envy others’ accomplishments and are happy when others succeed.
Years ago, I did the compliment challenge. My goal was the give a compliment to a stranger once a day. I was very good at giving compliments to my children and family, so my challenge was to go to a stranger and say something good. The supermarket was a great place to do that. When I saw a beautiful woman or girl, I said, “You are so beautiful”, or, “You have such beautiful eyes/hair”, or I would comment on the nametag. It was great to see the smiles and surprise on their faces. Truly, a compliment can make someone’s day.
Compliment Challenge #1: Family
Every day for 3 weeks, try to give a compliment to every member of your family. If you can give more than one, great! The best is to give 3 a day and it is Ok to build up until you are able to get to 3 compliments a day per person. In our family, we sometimes have a dinner session when we just give one another compliments. If you are a parent, always be the first to start and be a role model.
Compliment Challenge #2: Friends and Colleagues
Do the same at work and with friends. Try to give a compliment to every person you are in contact with during the day. Avoid “I am…” statements to keep the focus on the other person. Instead of saying, “I appreciate your work”, you can say, “Your work is valuable”, to avoid the approval trap. Simple ideas are
- “You are a good friend”
- “What you did was very helpful”
- “Your contribution was meaningful”
- “This necklace looks beautiful on you”
Compliment Challenge #3: Strangers
In this one, you focus on complimenting strangers – people you don’t know well and you only meet for a short time. This is the ultimate giving, because you are not likely to get a compliment back from this person. Complimenting strangers is a gift you will never get back. You do it to feel good and that’s it. Ideas for strangers:
- End phone calls with “You have been very helpful. Thank you”
- Say “Your bag is so beautiful” to someone you see on the bus
- Say “Your hair is glowing” to someone you see in a store
- Say “Your child is so polite and friendly” to another parent at the playground or kids’ birthday party
Your story will be highly appreciated, so please share it in the comment box below, and stay tuned to learn how to receive compliments, which is surprisingly hard for many people.
Until then, be happy, my beautiful reader,
This post is part of the series The Power of Compliments: